Signs Your Dog Needs an Eye Exam

Signs Your Dog Needs an Eye Exam

Posted Dec 1, 2017 | For Your Entertainment

Doggy daycare, grain-free food, monthly Barkbox subscriptions…sometimes it seems like we’re going overboard in how much we baby our dogs. Still, they’re members of our family and their health is a top priority. Since your dog can’t speak to you, it’s important to stay alert to signs and symptoms that there might be a problem. That goes for their eyes, too.

Much like humans, your dog can have eye infections, cataracts, injuries, and glaucoma along with other issues. The purpose of this article is to help you check for common signs and symptoms and equip you with appropriate next steps.

How to Examine Your Dog’s Eyes

Since you see your dog every day, you’re most likely to notice the signs of ocular issues before anyone else.  Check your dog’s eyes regularly in a well-lit area.  Have them sit in front of you and give them praise and treats for allowing you to examine them. 

Signs of Eye Infection or Injury

This will present as a visible third eyelid (may indicate a fever), redness, puffiness, excess discharge, crustiness, or watery eyes (may indicate infection).  After washing your hands, gently and carefully pull the eyelid down to check for irritation or debris inside the eyelid. If you notice any of these issues and/or your dog is pawing at its eyes frequently, make an appointment with your veterinarian.

Signs of Cataracts and Blindness

Now check for signs of other, less common eye issues. Confirm that the pupils are the same size (a mismatch may indicate head trauma, macular degeneration or exposure to chemicals - but sometimes resolves itself) and that there is no cloudiness in the eye (cloudiness may indicate cataracts). If your dog is having trouble seeing, you may notice that he or she is bumping into things and even bumping into you. When you throw a toy at a certain distance, they may not see it.
If this is a concern, you can test your dog’s menace reflex as well.  This indicates moderate to severe vision impairment.  Hold your hand, palm out toward your dog about 18 inches away from his/her face.  Move your hand swiftly forward until it is about 3 inches from your dog’s face. Your dog should blink. If there is no reaction, test each eye individually and call your veterinarian.

What Next? Diagnosing Vision Problems in Dogs

So, you found what may be a problem with your dog’s eyes. First things first, keep calm. Many of these symptoms are minor (so don’t worry) but they can also develop into something worse if left untreated.

Call Your Family Veterinarian
Veterinarians include a basic eye exam in your dog’s annual exam so they are well equipped to handle some of the simpler injuries and infections.

Know When to Call a Specialist
With only around 400 veterinary ophthalmologists in the US, they’re only needed when surgery is required or when your regular vet can’t determine a diagnosis. A specialist will continue the normal eye exam with the Schirmer eye test (for tear production), fluorescent eye stain (for cornea), or intraocular eye pressure check. They are also able to conduct surgeries on the cornea, retina and eyelids.

Tips to Protect Your Dog’s Vision

  • Don’t let your dog hang out the car window. People often worry that their dog might jump out the window but the most common issues involve eye injuries.  Remember that time a stone cracked your windshield? Imagine that pebble landing in Spot’s eye. If your dog loves smelling the outside, crack the window enough to let air in but not enough to let their head out.
  • Clean around your pet’s eyes. It’s normal for dogs to have a small amount of crustiness in the corners of their eyes. Some breeds are more prone to that then others. It is important to clear that away with a damp cloth or cotton ball from the inside corner of the eye, out.
  • Keep their coat coiffed. If you have a dog with long, eye-length fur, make sure to trim the fur so that it doesn’t cause scratches, infection, or in the worst cases, blindness. Using scissors near your dog’s eyes can be dangerous so if you’re not confident, ask your veterinarian or groomer.
If you or any of the human members of your family need an eye exam, we can help you find an eye doctor to schedule an appointment.


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